Chihuahuas kick off second season at home

The El Paso Chihuahuas were the talk of the city last year for many different reasons. Luckily for them, the product on the field was the least of those. The new season kicks off at 7:05 p.m. on April 9 against Tacoma at Southwest University Park. The Tacoma Rainiers will be in El Paso from April 9 to 12 and the Reno Aces from April 13 to 16.

The Chihuahuas finished 71-73 and outside of the playoff picture in the Pacific Coast League in 2014.

Not too many people will remember the record at all. What they will remember is the wonderful atmosphere of Southwest University Park, the great food on game days and the fun promotions that the team puts on for the fans.

This year the team promises that all of those things will be even better. There is also a good chance that the team will be better, too.

Chihuahuas manager Pat Murphy knows that the wins in San Diego, the major league affiliate for the Chihuahuas who have made huge strides toward becoming relevant again, is really all that matters in the long run.

“There’s only one ‘W’ that matters and that’s in the big leagues,” Murphy said. “It’ll all trickle down. It’s all good. When the big team’s winning, we’re all winning.”

Last year’s Chihuahuas were well known—like most teams in the Pacific Coast League—for their hitting prowess. The league is historically hitter friendly and the Chihuahuas had plenty of quality hitters.

If the team was lacking in one area, it was probably the pitching department.

The team finished the season with a combined 5.15 earned run average while using 32 different pitchers during the season. Six of those 32 return this season, but the difference maker may be the time that four of them spent in the major leagues.

Relief pitcher Kevin Quackenbush was called up to the Padres last season after only 14 innings with the Chihuahuas.

In the majors, “Quack” struck out 56 batters in 54 innings while posting a 2.48 ERA. It appeared Quackenbush would be on the Friars’ roster come opening day up until Sunday. Following yet another blockbuster Padres’ trade, in which they acquired all-star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves, Quackenbush was the odd man out and one of the last players to be sent back down to Triple-A baseball.

Here are the 2015 Chihuahuas pitchers:

Leonel Campos – He was on the Chihuahua’ roster to open the season last year. He struggled and was sent down to Double-A San Antonio. He pitched well enough by the end of the year to make the jump to San Diego, where he posted a 5.14 ERA in six games.

Scott Elbert – He has won four games in the major leagues over the last six seasons. He strikes out almost one batter per inning, and came to the Padres from the rival Dodgers, where he had spent his entire career.

Robbie Erlin – He spent most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery (torn ulna), but did start two games for the Chihuahuas toward the end of the season. He started 11 games for the Padres, but did not look like the pitcher who was at one time the No. 53 prospect in all of baseball.

Casey Kelly – He only pitched toward the end of the season last year in One-A and Double A after spending almost two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. Once the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Kelly is still only 25 years old, despite having pitched since 2009. He is the Padres’ No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America.

Stephen Kohlscheen – He was outstanding for the Chihuahuas after being traded from the Mariners organization during the 2014 season. Posted a 2.61 ERA in 38 innings with El Paso.

Jason Lane – He is by far the most interesting story on last year’s team, and made his way back to the majors as a pitcher after spending six seasons in “the show” with the Astros—and hitting 61 home runs. The 38-year-old Lane is an asset in the rotation and as a bench bat for Murphy.

Marcos Mateo – The 30-year-old pitcher has had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, but looks to be a career Triple-A pitcher. He has found his calling as a reliever with a 3.55 ERA over nine minor league seasons.

Brandon Maurer – Traded to the Padres in December of last year after pitching in 38 games for the Seattle Mariners.

Cory Mazzoni – He was traded to the Padres at the very end of Spring Training. Posted a 24-12 record over four minor league seasons in the Mets organization.

James Needy – He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Has an outstanding 3.07 ERA over five minor league seasons. May prove to be the ace of the Chihuahuas staff.

Aaron Northcraft – Acquired in another recent Padres’ trade. He has struck out 559 batters in six minor league seasons with the Braves.

Chris Rearick – A fan-favorite from last season for throwing out bubble gum from the bullpen, the redheaded lefty has 2.72 ERA, and spent the whole season in El Paso.

Kevin Quackenbush – He will most likely be the Chihuahuas’ closer.

The Chihuahuas return a lot of fan-favorites in the batting order for 2015. Luckily for the team, the fan-favorites just happen to be some of the best hitters from last season’s team.

Cody Decker – the first baseman and sometimes catcher who led all of the Padres’ minor leaguers in home runs returns and will no doubt continue to garner the most interest from fans with his YouTube videos and outgoing personality.

One newcomer to the team is Brett Wallace, who like several players last season signed with the Chihuahuas mainly to play for his college coach Pat Murphy.

“I had three great years with him. He helped me out with my career a lot early on,” Wallace said. “It’s a lot of fun to be around him, he keeps it loose.”

The 2015 Chihuahuas batters:

Rocky Gale – Gale was in spring camp with the Padres until the very end and almost won the back-up catching job. He batted .303 for the Chihuahuas last season.

Austin Hedges – The Padres No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America. Hedges is known as an outstanding defensive catcher. He needs to improve his .225 batting average from last season to get the call from the Padres.

Cody Decker – He hit 27 home runs for the Chihuahuas last year and made several epic Youtube videos consisting of pranks on teammate Jeff Franceour.

Alex Dickerson – The 1B/OF was supposed to be a big part of the Chihuahuas last season, but missed it all following an injury in the spring. The former third-round pick has a career .298 average.

Taylor Lindsey – Acquired in a trade with the Angels midseason, he batted only .219 for the Chihuahuas. The career .284 batter should see an improvement in his second season in the PCL.

Mike McCoy – The 34-year-old San Diego native has a .190 career batting average in parts of four major league seasons. He looks to be strictly a back up for the Chihuahuas.

Ramiro Peña – The 29-year-old Mexican had a few good seasons in New York backing up Derek Jeter. He is a slick fielder who should become a fan favorite.

Brett Wallace – The probable starting third baseman has 29 career major league home runs over four seasons.

Abraham Almonte – He played against the Chihuahuas last season as a member of the Tacoma Rainiers, and has 209 career minor league stolen bases.

Jake Goebbert – He came to the Chihuahuas midway through 2014 in the trade of another Chihuahua, Kyle Blanks. He spent 51 games with the Padres last season after posting a .322 average with eight home runs as a Chihuahua.

Rymer Liriano – The Padres No. 6 prospect made his Major League debut last season following a brief, but a phenomenal stint with the Chihuahuas. He had a .452 average during his 16 games in El Paso.

Tommy Medica – He returns to El Paso after spending most of the season with the Padres. He hit nine home runs and had 27 runs batted in during his second season in the majors. There could be a drastic improvement under Murphy’s tutelage this season.

The Chihuahuas have one of the best managers in Triple-A baseball. With the collection of talent that the Padres have stashed in El Paso this year, this team should easily best last year’s record.

Whether they will be appearing in the Triple-A National Championship, which takes place at Southwest University Field in September, is really up to the Padres. Players will come and go, with the ultimate goal being to win a World Series at the Major League level.

It is up to Pat Murphy to win with what he has here in El Paso.

The fans are going to win regardless during another fun and exciting El Paso Chihuahuas season.

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected]